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  • Kaia Colestock

Day 1: Cairns and Botanical Gardens

Updated: Jan 6

Pre-dawn I was already on the balcony, recording device in hand, attempting to capture the rainforest cacophony surrounding us. I can’t recall another dawn chorus that compares. It was as if every bird in the rainforest was competing to make his/her voice heard through layered walls of vegetation. Each one was determined to succeed.


As soon as it was light enough to see, we ventured out into the neighboring park, an oasis of rainforest interspersed with small lakes. Pausing at a Chinese garden, a man named Brian cycled up to us and immediately exclaimed, “berd’atchers!!” Keep in mind, I understand local Australians slightly more than Scots, but still less than Americans chewing food. We eventually translated that Brian was encouraging us to go on a bird walk in the Botanical Gardens in roughly one hour, and to ensure we stop at a tea farm for tree ”roos“ (aka kangaroos). The timing was impeccable. We were first to arrive at the meeting location and participated in what ended up being the most valuable walk of the entire trip. A group of 20 or so other nature enthusiasts came along.


Here are a few highlights from the walk:


Papuan frogmouth! Right out of the gate, the guide took us to a spot where a pair of frogmouths roost during the day. They do their best to look like the tree trunk. This is the female with a brownish hue. More on these to come….


Olive-backed sunbirds never disappoint. I first fell in love with these in the Philippines. Small package but pack a large punch with lots of attitude.


Pacific black ducks have a striking face, and they are easy to pick out at a distance.


We came across a bush thick-knee pair resting near their nest in some leaf litter. These have looong legs when standing and run around like killdeer. Can you spot the chick in the photo?


Finally, one of my new favorites, laughing kookaburras. Essentially, they are a large kingfisher with a villain laugh. You can hear one cackling in the opening jungle scene of Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark.


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